The Literary Influences Behind Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’

David Bowie in “The Man Who Fell To Earth” (1976), by British Lion Films

Editor's Note:

Also in the news: Capitalizing on disaster in Puerto Rico, and a surprising new place to buy comic books. It’s your Daily Blunt!

Great songs aren’t written in a vacuum, as it were, and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is no exception. In a new book by Jason Heller entitled Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded, we get to see how certain sci-fi stories wended their way into young Bowie’s brain, fueling his awe of space exploration and the particular existential melancholy that resulted in this unlikely hit, which ended up – rather ironically – being played during the BBC coverage of the Apollo 11 launch. This excerpt from Heller’s book provided by Electric Literature is worth reading in full, and may inspire a full rewatching (or rereading) of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Another new book, on a far more immediate subject: In The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists, Naomi Klein examines the way that Hurricane Maria devastation (for which no more humanitarian relief seems to be forthcoming) has created a feeding frenzy among wealthy developers, leaving the fate of the island’s less well-off residents even more uncertain than ever. In this interview with Klein, Juan Gonzales of Democracy Now reminds listeners (and readers, as a full transcript is also available) of the scale of the disaster: “There’s 55,000 people who are in foreclosures in Puerto Rico right now,” he says. “An average of 14 families a day are into the foreclosure process.”

Indie comic book shops can be few and far between, but in a pinch you might be able to find new releases at your local GameStop. The gaming retailer’s recent success in the collectible and toy market have inspired them to experiment with offering comics as well. As reports, “The leaked images show several comics already in the Gamestop system, which mainly consist of Marvel and DC books though there are a few Image and Oni Press titles in there as well.” Anyone wanna place bets on how long before they transition all the way into ComicStop?

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are.” So goes a bit of correspondence between two WWII soldiers, Gordon Bowsher and Gilbert Bradley, whose hundreds of letters to each other have been acquired by a museum where they’ll be put on display for visitors. As the BBC’s article points out, the stakes for keeping this romance secret could not have been higher: “At the time, not only was homosexuality illegal, but those in the armed forces could be shot for having gay sex.” Although they each eventually moved on to other partners, many decades later these two soldiers are still getting their wish: the museum confirms that a book based on the letters is in the works.